There has to be a better way …

August 11, 2011

I, like many of the people who work in this industry, am “the guy who knows about computers” to my friends and family. This means I get the job of cleaning viruses, reinstalling Windows, and much more sadly, trying to recover lost data – mainly family photos – cherished items gone into the ether with the crumbling surface of an old 200Gb SATA hard drive.

It’s not really the hardware vendor’s fault, and I’m not having a go at hard disks here, but people now put their lives (and their history, finances, memories and education) in the hands of mechanical devices that they purchased expecting to be like the fridge … reliable, sturdy and last a long, long time … even to the point where we, the consumer, get to make the decision regarding when we send it to meet it’s maker … not when some electronic component forces the decision upon us often with catastrophic consequences.

So all this pain (thankfully at the moment not mine) caused me to think about my own home system. Yes I back up my data (mostly sporting administration documents) but over in the corner is the “family” computer – which seems to have a life of it’s own because I can’t be bothered spending a great deal of time looking after it.

When I do get a pang of conscience, or the wife berates me because she can’t get the cd burner to work etc, then I always find myself surprised as to what I find on it (all good of course). Now that the kids have grown up they mostly just do facebook on the various netbooks lying around the house (for which they were purchased cheaply in China) – no data stored, but virtual communication somewhere up in the cloud – about which I don’t need to worry.

But on the home machine, thankfully in the well ordered file structure I imposed on the children and wife from a very young age, are thousands (yes literally thousands) of photos and videos – mostly of sporting moments good and bad showing that my wife has spent countless hours beside a BMX track videoing the kids while I’ve toiled away at sports administration and watched them … recording their special moments in my grey matter, not on video tape, then memory stick and finally on flash memory in the many different kinds of cameras (still and video) that have cluttered my office over the years.

Hmmm … better back this lot up. A simple arrangement of a batch file and a NAS box handles that behind the scenes, with a quick check occasionally to make sure my precious DOS skills have not failed with the ever changing command line structure of various versions of Windows.

But wait, it’s all in the same room. In fact it’s all in the same house … with all the natural disasters I see implanting themselves on the Australian landscape I’m feeling that this solution is not quite good enough. I could of course put it all on a USB drive and drop it in at mums (being 30 or so kilometres away), but that then becomes difficult to manage – I’ll have to go and get it and add the next instalment of photos and videos – not that I mind going to see mum … it’s just another job to do (the photo management that is).

So what else can I do? Why not the cloud? I hear nothing but the dreaded “cloud” these days that I may as well jump on the bandwagon. So a small investment and I’ve purchased myself a piece of virtual real estate in a land far-far away (for all I know) … I feel very proud of my smart 21st century solution to my dilemma.

But now the fun begins. Most of the videos are over 3gb in size (my wife knows how to take videos but not how to adjust a camera resolution etc). Hmmm, can’t upload more than a 1gb file. OK, that’s fixable – WinRAR to the rescue by compressing folders into CDROM sized segments of 700mb each. OK, I now only have about 130 of these to upload to the ether to easy my concerns about any potential data loss (and the consequent divorce). Easy, let’s just sit down one night and select a certain number of files and push them up to the cloud via the nice little interface that my provider gives me.

As you can imagine, the job is not finished yet. In fact it’s turning into a whole new dimension of problems. Had to increase the upload/download limit and speed on the internet connection so this would finish before next year’s lot had to go up, then had to sit and manage pushing large files up to the cloud over an excruciatingly slow connection. Here in Australia we use ADSL – fast to bring stuff down to me, but hopeless when it comes to pushing stuff up to the cloud.

So the whole grand idea has fallen into a long, time-consuming, miserable task that never seems to end.

There has to be a better way.



One thought on “There has to be a better way …

  1. Quick update … I found this blog while trolling through looking for something else I’d written before … and realised that in fact I have found a better way. I’ve moved the kids/family over to Mac (not that that should make much difference) and now use a US online backup organisation to whom I pay $5 per month for an unlimited amount of storage. Every time I put a new file on the mac it is automatically synchronised with the US … so should something catastrophic happen to my system I just contact the vendor and they send me an external drive with all my data. Its a great service.

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